Heidi #2 Started

Neckline staystitched, bodice tucks tucked on Heidi #2.

I’ve finally started sewing my second Heidi dress, which has been cut out for the past 2 weeks or so. Sometimes I have to force myself to start because no matter how much I like the act of putting something together–especially something pretty–the amount of work involved can be daunting. It’s kind of like exercise. I like moving my body; my muscles crave the exertion. But it’s frequently hard to get motivated to get into my exercise gear and commit time to the bike or the elliptical machine, even though I know I’ll feel great afterward and it doesn’t really take many minutes out of my day.

Same with sewing sometimes. So I find it’s best to think in baby steps, take it one thing at a time (which is really the only way they can be taken anyway, but sometimes the brain moves forward too quickly), and that way each step seems more manageable.

The black cotton batiste bodice lining for Heidi #2, with fusible interfacing at the neckline--a step I skipped in Heidi #1.

In any case, Heidi #2 is well underway. I’ve applied fusible interfacing to the lining necklines, staystitched the outer fabric necklines, sewed fronts to backs and created the tucks in all layers. That’s a good start.

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Leather Bodice progress

I don’t remember sewing leather as being particularly difficult. But sewing the pieces of this black leather bodice together has been decidedly frustrating. Not horribly so; at least there’s that. Just the kind of irritating frustration that makes sewing more of a chore than a pleasure.
I think the problem is that the leather is so thin and soft that the layer directly under the presser foot slips against the layer directly atop the feed dogs, because the smooth sides are facing each other, while the sueded sides are facing out. So the top layer slips out of alignment with the bottom layer, meaning the edges of the two pieces no longer line up properly. Also, there’s considerable stretching of the bottom layer. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if the leather was thicker. Or sueded on both sides. I’ve sewn heavy suede before and didn’t have this problem.
What I ended up having to do is start the stitch at the very edge of the layered pieces and progress without backstitching for a few inches, then stop. Then flip the pieces so the top layer is on the bottom and start stitching again. Once the layers were stitched together with minimal stretching and aligned properly at the edges, I ran a new line of stitching very close to the first line.
Once the seam allowances were clipped on the inside, I opened the side seam allowances and tacked them down at the top edge. Because there’s an angle near the bottom of the side seam, I left those seam allowances free. I’m considering topstitching all seam allowances down on this outer layer for the bodice/corset.
We’ll see. I figured it was best to leave well enough alone for a bit once I finally got all the seams together Sunday night. Stop while you’re ahead, I say.

Sewcation 2011!

You’ve probably heard the term “staycation.” I’ve taken several over the past few years–real vacations being somewhat more costly and there being so much at home that goes unattended to during the regular course of the year (improvement projects, sewing projects, etc.). So usually I’m taking a vacation from work to accomplish things at home; things that need to get done: painting, redoing a bathroom, refinishing cabinets, the occasional sewing project. Staycations can be really useful for getting things done, but for me at least, those things are so varied that at the end of the week (it’s usually a week) my head is spinning and even though there’s a sense of accomplishment in having been so productive, there’s so much–usually of the sewing variety–that still goes unfinished or even unstarted. I try to catch up on sewing projects during weekends, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

So this year, I’m proposing for myself a “sewcation”–1 week off from work during which I stay home and focus only on sewing projects. Not painting, or cleaning, or organizing, or finishing that last bit of my kitchen project that’s been waiting for months and months. That’ll have to be another staycation.

All the projects I’ve got planned and haven’t been able to start yet due to lack of time and energy will finally get worked on. Maybe some will even get finished. And I have so many projects that I’ll probably need two sewcations just to get through half of them.

I’ve got about 8 everday, real-life dress projects planned, (1 currently in progress). Then there are the four costuming projects I’ve got planned, one of which is in progress already. If even half of them are going to get done, a sewcation is a must. It could take 3 sewcations to get all these projects even started this year. It’s not necessary to complete them all this year–but it’d just be nice to at least get them halfway there.

Prioritizing is a must. Here’s my list, in order of priority (subject to change at a moment’s whim). And I’m hoping to get the first two completed before my first sewcation, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

  1. complete Heidi #2 (already in progress)
  2. complete black leather Ren bodice (already in progress)
  3. navy silk and teal/pink paisely Simplicity Cynthia Rowley ruffle-neck dress
  4. BurdaStyle/SelfishSeamstress Coffee Date Dress (2 in cotton sateen–rose and cadet blue–and 1 in plum silk charmeuse)
  5. teal silk charmeuse Vogue Tracy Reese dress
  6. smoke grey Ren bodice with gunmetal/pewter taffetta skirt
  7. complete green linen Ren shirt
  8. complete tan suede vest
  9. Vogue Anne Klein lightweight wool pleated dress
  10. complete Chinese brocade skirt (and make a top to go with it)
  11. ruffle top (or two)

Anything that says “complete” indicates that the pieces are already cut and are just waiting to be sewn together. Sometimes I dedicate a weekend to just cutting out patterns and fabric, so at least that tedious part of the process is out of the way.

So during my first Sewcation 2011, I’ll begin and hopefully complete at least one, maybe two, of these sewing projects. I have all or most of the materials for most of these projects already, so that part is out of the way. Since most of dress projects will be really versatile and could reasonably be categorized as four-season dresses, I won’t even have to focus my sewcations on sewing ahead for the next season.

And that’s my plan for vacations this year. I’ll try to blog during them to keep track of my progress, too.

Recent Projects: ’20s evening frock

My '20s evening frock--not the best silhouette on a curvy figure, but oh so fun.

I made this costume on the fly for a friend’s ’20s-themed birthday party—and I have to say, it turned out pretty well, considering the tunic-style outer dress started life as a shawl purchased from TJ Maxx!

I’d been researching ’20s-style evening gowns for several weeks, wondering how I could whip one up in a short amount of time but still have it be something I’d love. Flapper styles aren’t exactly ideal for my figure, but I love to get into the spirit of costume parties and themes. And I do love how opulent the embroidery, bead, or sequin detailing can be on a ’20s dress. So I decided to stick with something simple that I didn’t have to do much cutting for and could easily jazz up with a few trims and embellishments.

I found a vaguely Persian-patterned shawl at TJ Maxx, and loved the colors. And it already had some sequins applied to accent parts of the pattern. Pink sequins! So fun! I just needed a slip to go underneath, as the shawl was of a fairly loose, gauzey weave.

I thought gold would go well underneath the shawl’s primarily navy and golden-olive palette, and found a butterscotch-gold poly crepe-back satin fabric to use.

I only used a pattern for the underslip. A while back I inherited a few original 1920s sewing patterns from my grandmother and held onto them, thinking I might use one at some point. One of the patterns was for a pieced princess slip or slipdress, by Designer Pattern. And since my grandmother was not a small woman even when she was young, the pattern was actually close to my size! I didn’t bother copying the pattern pieces, just used a dry iron to smooth out the wrinkles and laid them atop the fabric for the slip. No pins.

To make the outer dress, I simply folded the shawl in half length-wise and draped it over my dress form, cutting a hole in the fold for the neck. Then I snipped four Vs: one for the front neckline, a lower back neckline, and along the side edges to form the underarm lines. I stay-stitched all the raw edges before the gauzey weave had a chance to unravel, stitched down the sides of the shawl to form sideseams, leaving the bottom few inches open as hem slits. Then I stitched on the organza shoulder straps and handstitched the new pink sequins in place around the neckline and arm openings. I left the bottom hem raw, as the original shawl ends in a fine, short fringe. 

But the accents and accessories are frequently what makes ’20s evening dresses so appealing—fun, flirty, glittering, and sophisticated. To my supplies I added four iron-on beaded/sequined medallions to accent the shoulder straps where they would join the body of the dress. More pink sequins to outline the neckline and arm openings, sage green organza ribbon to use as straps, a pink and gold organza flower pin, and a narrow, gold net beaded-and-fringed scarf to use as a low sash.

Iridescent pink sequins already embellished the design of the purchased shawl; I added regular pink sequins in nearly the same color at the neckline and arm openings. A double thickness of organza ribbon forms the straps, and the ends are covered with iron-on beaded medallions.

After ironing on the bead/sequin medallions to cover the raw organza ribbon edges at the shoulder/bodice join, I tried on the outer dress. A few tweaks later and it was ready for finishing. I marked the placement for the gold net/bead sash, tacked it into place, and then crossed the ends on the left side of the dress, slightly towards the front. Last step: pin the flower into place where the sash ends cross. 

The gold net beaded/fringed sash and pink-and-gold net flower pin.

It’s certainly a unique and crafty ’20s evening dress, but the effect was fantastic, especially with the bright butterscotch gleaming through the gauzey shawl material. I’m quite proud of it. It took me most of a weekend to complete. It wore very nicely, although some of the beads on the sash fringe fell off. I was able to dance the Charleston quite easily!

I would love to make a few more authentic ’20s dresses at some point from some period dress-draping books in my Amazon wishlist, but I’ll be keeping this one.

Dancing away to something resembling the Charleston!

New Project: Leather Renaissance Bodice

The front and back pieces of my new leather bodice.

This is a new bodice I’m working on for next faire season. It started life as a black leather skirt I snagged off ebay for about $25. The pattern is one I purchased many many years ago and made precisely once. It’s a completely different style than I typically make–more a corset-style bodice with straps cut separately. Although with this one, I’m eliminating the straps because the structure of the bodice, which will include steel boning and closely spaced eyelets, will be sufficient to support itself without needing straps to hold it up.

Fantasy Fashions' Renaissance Maiden pattern.

The pattern actually is all one piece, as you can see from the photo of the lining piece, but because the leather skirt was pieced in smaller sections, I cut the pattern at the side dart for the outer leather and added about 3/8 inch for a seam allowance. I cut along the line of the dart, so the shaping will be retained at the side when sewn. It will have a corset coutil interlining and lining.

The lining piece. The bodice/corset pattern is all one piece with a side dart.

I’ve found this style very comfortable in the past, and I’m really looking forward to wearing this one when complete.

An idea sketch of the trim and applique, which will be executed in lavender suede.

It won’t just be plain black leather either. No, I’m sacrificing an old lavender suede shirt-jacket that has a lovely hand to cut up into trim and applique. Appliques will be cut as stylized floral or leaf motifs. The trim will be cut in a lace edging pattern similar to this:

New Project: Heidi #2

The front bodice piece of my new Heidi!

I recently cut out and began marking the pieces for my next BurdaStyle Heidi. For this second version, I’m using a Joel Dewberry fabric: Orchid Mulberry. I love the base color–it’s just so yummy. Like jam!

To add a little more pizazz to this version of the dress, I’m considering beading a pickstitch along the pocket edges. Nothing fancy, maybe a small colored wood bead, or plastic/glass seed bead. I don’t want to do too much, which I think would just detract from the beauty of the fabric’s design and the dress’s features.

The front skirt pieces.

I’ll begin sewing it soon. The poly skirt lining still needs cutting out but as that’s one of the last piece attached to the dress, it can wait a little while.